Better Ski Technique - Back To Ski School
By Simon Dewhurst

This is the first of five articles taking you back to where you started from. They involve the five basic skiing turns, namely the snowplough (also known as the stem or wedge), the stem turn, the stem christie and the christie (or parallel turn).

Whereever you happen to be in the turning heirachy, they are a very helpful way of learning what you are actually doing on the skis.

Do you remember what it was like the first time you put skis on? Can you remember the first few days of bruises, excitement, and the thrill of uncontrolled speed? I have tried to remember how our ski instructor got us going but without much luck. I remember his name, and how much he drank at lunchtime, and that he had a very red face in the afternoons, but not much else. If you started a long time ago you probably won’t remember a great deal either, so prepare for reversion therapy!

If you started only a short time ago then all this will be instantly familiar, but still very useful. It is intended as revision so that you can revert to practising it, and thinking about how it works. This will be quite easy as you should have no longer have any restrictive influences such as fear, or badly fitting boots (like you did when you started).

These articles are not for a beginner to use as a ski instruction manual prior to skiing for the first time, as nothing can do the early learning process justice except to go out onto the slopes and experience the pleasure, terror, and mere sensation of gliding over snow on a first skiing holiday. I will be mentioning in a future article the very basic guidelines for teaching, so if there is good reason to teach a friend, and it should be a very good reason, then have a look at it when it arrives.

You really must practise these basic techniques yourself; they will not take a long time to get through - perhaps you can run through some of them in an idle moment waiting for your friends at the bottom of the gondola. They will definitely give you an insight into where your weight is over the skis, what you are doing to steer them, and how you are unweighting them before a turn - useful things to store away for later.

With the end of this introduction to reversion therapy, I'll just mention the build up to the snowplough/wedge position and what it involves:

Putting the skis on. Walking around on the flat to feel the skis. Running straight down on the gentlest slope to a natural stop for perhaps 20 metres. Side stepping with small steps to get back up the hill (going a little higher each time). Running straight down again taking step turns to change direction. These exercises should be done without poles.

The Braking Snowplough (Stem or Wedge) involves getting into the snowplough position with the help of the poles. Alternatively, the ski instructor, running backwards, may hold the tips of the skis to start with. This exercise allows the skier to slide down the slope alternating between braking snowploughs, and straight running, which he does by bringing his heels back together and then pushing them out again. Poles can be held, but the arms should be down by the skier's side, nice and relaxed. The knees should be slightly bent.